<$BlogRSDUrl$>

We came, we saw, we sat down in the streets and raised hell. Now we're...

Monday, February 02, 2004

12:43 AM PST, 01/27/2004
[Rush sent me this asking me to forward it to the group - so here it is!

-Dev]

Dear Lockheed 52,

I have been encouraged to write a brief report on my week (which reduces--given
jail crowding state-wide--to 5/6 days) at the Santa Clara County Correctional
Facility at Elmwood. I spent from December 28, 2003 to Jan. 3, 2004 at Elmwood,
the same place we ultimately were taken before our release last spring.
Although I have been arrested many times in my life, this was the first
occasion in which I spent nights in jail.

Elmwood is a minimum-security facility, which means that the yard is "open" for
more than just a short time each day. You can be out of your barracks when the
yard is open, and that amounted to between 3 and 4 hours a day. You could walk
around (on the walkways where you were allowed to walk), go to the sport field
(no one told me where it was, and I found it only by accident), or to the
library. However, the weather was rainy and cold, and given the fact that you
get one set of clothes per week (including 1 pair underpants and socks),
getting real active or wet did not seem advisable. My barracks--like others in
the Lockheed group that chose the jail option--was the OG (old guys), housing
about 25 souls. In form and layout, much like the other barracks, as far as I
could gather, but the guard presence was a little less, and no one was trying
to prove how tough they were, or anything like that. Among the people I talked
with, everyone was quick to volunteer how much time they had to serve, but a
bit reluctant to discuss why they were in (usually insisting it was a
misunderstanding, or a mistake, on the part of the law). Most of my guys were
in for drunk driving (repeat), or driving under the influence after their
license had been revoked, or counterfeiting, or domestic violence. My sense is
that everyone in the barracks wanted to get along, and to make everyone's stay
(including their own) as trouble free as possible. From talking to folks who'd
spent time (earlier) in the state penitentiary (or in the "Gladiator School" at
Elmwood, reserved for violent offenders, with 23-hour lockdown, etc). the
attitude in OG at Elmwood may have been exceptional. However, I saw many
examples of inmates working out problems that could have gotten ugly (during a
soccer game on the sports field, for example, an incident that could have
gotten racially nasty) on their own. And I witnessed (and benefited from) many
small acts of kindness and generosity from fellow inmates.

The food was awful, and served at ungodly hours--b'fast at 4:30 am, lunch at
10:30 am, dinner at 4:30 pm (this after Italy!!). I've been a vegetarian for
over 30 years, so I ate a lot of cabbage salad, which is the staple green thing
on the plate. What's funny is that--even though the food is really crummy--one
looks forward to it. Now and then you'd get a small packet of fritos, or the
like, and then you learn how arbitrary the system is. Normally the guards allow
the inmates to take that out of the mess hall, but one day they didn't say so
OUT LOUD, so they confiscated these little packages of food on departure from
the mess. Normally this kind of thing is not worth mentioning, but in jail it
matters. Little things matter, and of course it represents how power operates
when it is so dominant--that is, arbitrarily, so you can never be sure exactly
what's going on, EXCEPT that you're an inmate, and you are basically
powerless. I could give countless other examples, but the point is quickly
grasped. In jail, you're an inmate, and that's all. Even though I was in for
such a short time, I felt like an inmate and I was. That's that. I kept my head
down, and I toed the line. The smallest thing can get you "infracted," and that
means more time. The people who have spent years in jail and kept their spirits
and minds intact (especially those who were wrongly incarcerated) have my total
admiration. How do they, did they, do it? I may have future opportunities to
learn a little about that, as this 2 year court probation means an arrest in
Santa Clara County will probably lead to automatic jail time. I've been
fingerprinted, eye scanned, probed and documented so many times getting in and
out of jail (at the Palo Alto Courthouse, where I was held for several hours,
at the Santa Clara County jail, where I was for about 8 hours, and at Elmwood
as well, not to mention whatever they did when we were first arrested)--I think
I'm in the system. And I can't imagine avoiding arrest, given the state of play
in the country right now, and in the forseeable future.

Let me close by saying I was helped in my short span at Elmwood by others who
have been there, and knowledge can alleviate worry or lessen that sense that
you don't know what's coming. If anyone finds themselves going in, I'd be glad
to speak personally with you about what little I know of how to make the best
of it. I'm glad I chose the jail option; I'm glad I got out so expeditiously;
and I imagine I'll see you there one of these days!

Rush

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

As long as civil disobedience continues it might be a good idea to collect
reports on the quality of jail facilities to which we might find ourselves
sentenced from time to time. Perhaps we could develop a comparative rating
scale, with a five star facility the ultimate in comfort, inmate/guard
friendliness, food, and activities.

With that in mind Iím submitting the following notes for any who have a
fondness for data bases.

I spent 5 days at the Elmwood Correctional facilities and have previously
wiled away 3 days at the Marin County Jail when it was known as ìThe Farmî,
(sadly torn down and replaced by one of those godawful modern
and efficient structures) so I have little to go on in the way of
comparison other than to say that Elmwood ranked far below Marin in nearly
all respects. Most particularly food.

Age is an important factor at Elmwood. If you are over 50 (Iím 67) you will
be placed in special minimum security housing, affectionately dubbed the
ìbed-wettersî barracks presumably for the incontinent as well as
incompetent. I found myself in the company of 24 mellow inmates of mixed
races with whom friendship was easily established. In such facilities, the
ìIî immediately becomes a ìweî.

ìGuard friendlinessî was mixed. Most seemed to carry out their assigned
duties with the indifference of an average worker on an assembly line
toward their product. A very few seemed actually kindly disposed toward us,
while some others took obvious pleasure in making the life of an inmate a
little more miserable.

I have only one thing to say about meals. Awful and Iím not picky about
food. Breakfasts were at 4:30 AM, lunches at 10:30 AM, and dinner at 4:30
PM. A bit of shock to a late riser like myself, but it doesnít take long to
get into the routine. What takes longer to adjust to is being part of a
process in which a calculated number of calories are administered to a
maximum number of sentient animals in the most modern and efficient time
saving manner. Thus some six or eight hundred inmates are metronomed out of
their barracks to form a long continuous moving line that proceeds to the
to and through a stainless steel feeding enclosure, only stopping briefly
to pass some edible contents from a tray into the stomach. One then resumes
a place in this ever moving line (no food allowed to be taken) back to the
barracks. The whole ordeal takes about 15 minutes.

The food itself was very plain, with little to distinguish one meal from
another. A typical meal would include baloney. Many meals included
baloney. It had a curious purple cast and tasted as though it had been
lightly washed in a weak disinfectant. It would come with a couple of
slices of bread, a small package of cheese crackers or something similar,
an apple or tangerine, a plastic bag of milk, some raw cabbage with about a
teaspoon of Italian dressing, and maybe a fruit cup. Meals were conducted
in silence.

As for creature comforts, we were given two blankets, two sheets, and a
thin foam mattress to place on an iron bed frame. The foam had small effect
but my fellow inmates were happy to show me ways of cobbling together
materials for a pillow and mattress supplement. The barracks had heat and
hot showers and surprisingly the ubiquitous tv was NOT always on and there
were plenty of books to read in the ìdormî. It is important to note two
things. One: You are not allowed to bring anything in with you, even
reading glasses if they are metal framed. Two: Commissary privileges are
once a week on Sundays. (I never got to use it).

I had the curious coincidence of reading a book (Best Essays of 2003) which
had thoughtfully been left by Ed Ehmke one of our ìLockeed 52î!! He had
apparently used the organization ìFriends Outsideî that has an arrangement
with the prison. Thanks Ed!

So rating by category I put:

ìInmate Friendlinessî ÖÖÖÖÖÖÖ. 5
ìGuard friendlinessîÖÖÖÖÖÖÖÖ..3
food ÖÖÖÖÖÖÖÖÖÖÖÖÖÖÖ1
Creature ComfortÖÖÖÖÖÖÖÖÖ..3

I should probably add another category. ìWas the overall experience worth it?î

Speaking for myself Iíd say definitely yes (though I think it might depend
on length of stay). I caught a mild version of the flu toward the last day
or two.

To describe the actual learning experience would take many pages, much
dealing with various aspects of power, control and resistance, class
division, solidarity, and so on.

For this I have nothing but gratitude to those hard workers in the affinity
groups that allowed me to gain this enrichment. Thanks all.

Bill Hard
January 12, 2004

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Lockheed 52-ers are currently dealing with community service/incarceration/etc while settling into their post-action lives, and getting ready to party hardy on December 7th. Awwwww yeah.
The Wars on the World wage and rage on, brought to you by the letters B, for Bush and Blair. (Fortunately we have a righteous Blair in our crew to keep the name clean.).

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?